Greater City Providence

NYTimes Friedman: Stop Being “Dumb” and Focus on Infrastructure

friedman-ts-190Tom Friedman, the author and NYTimes commentator, is hardly new to the “infrastructure is sexy” school of thought. His writing is always interesting, controversial, and powerful (if a bit simplistic, especially on automotive matters). In today’s NYTimes he focuses on the huge contrasts between taking the train to the plane in Hong Kong and in New York and how we feel like a third world country by comparison.

He basically states that the US “as a country [has] become General Motors | as a result of our national drift” and that what we’re seeing now is the culmination of decades of “dumb,” selfish, and short sighted decisions. He ends by saying, “Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard.

ts-brooks-190But will people let their backyards be reinvented and will planners think far enough ahead? In a related recent NYTimes editorial, the conservative commentator David Brooks expresses quite real concerns that the Obama transportation funding initiative will be an innovation stifling reinforcement of the status quo. “Sure enough, the Obama stimulus plan, at least as it has been sketched out so far, is notable for its lack of creativity… Before the recession hit, we were enjoying a period of urban and suburban innovation. We could have been on the verge of a transportation revolution. It looks as if the Obama infrastructure plan may freeze that change, not fuel it.” When even the Republican commentators are asking for transformational transportation thinking, then you definitely know we’ve reached a very opportune moment in history.

Both editorials are very recommended reading…

Photos from the NYTimes

Bret Ancowitz


  • I just read Friedman’s article. I must agree, when one travels outside the U.S., it is an excellent opportunity to see how other countries have surpassed us in many types of infrastructure.

    He makes a great point about the trains. We have the Acela, which is a good start, but clearly leaves more to be desired. Many European countries offer great examples of better-ways-of-getting-around. In the U.S., we seem to have been so focused on cars, we’ve forgotten that there are other modes, and some modes are better suited than others for certain places.

    The Friedman piece is certainly a worthwhile read.

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